When you look into Shenaz’s eyes, they are dull, despondent, hopeless.
From grief, from sickness and from hunger. No 4-year-old should have this pain, this hopelessness in her eyes.
Last year, Shenaz’s father passed away. He was a river diver. In the Yamuna, the most polluted river in all of India, he dove below the surface to collect metals — copper, silver, gold if he was lucky. But one day, his foot got caught.
Shenaz, her four siblings and their mother, Shabnam, waited for him to come home, but he never did…
Shabnam has little education and is struggling to find a job, but she has Shenaz and four other children to care for.
Not long after their father passed away, Shenaz and all of her siblings got Typhoid; it was almost impossible to find clean food and water on the banks of the river.
With help from a generous uncle, the family moved from the dangerously polluted riverbank to a crowded, five-story slum building. But still, it’s hard to imagine five growing children — ages 4 to 12 — and their mother living in this one-room home. One twin bed sits against the wall. Three children sleep here. Rolled up underneath the bed are the bedrolls and blankets that the others use to sleep on the floor. The kitchen makes up the other half of the room, and their few possessions — extra clothes and school notebooks — are kept in a small cabinet. Clothes dry on a deck protruding from the edge of the building, with just a low wall protecting them from a five-story fall.
But their living conditions are still not the biggest danger they face. Their neighbors are. One, in particular, harasses them — posing a true threat to their safety.
Shabnam tries to find food for her children each day, but some days they skip meals. Often, Shabnam eats almost nothing in order to give as much food as she can to her children.
While they worry about food, school is even further out of reach. In India, school is expensive. So without help, neither Shabnam nor her four older siblings will get an education.
Battling sickness and weak from malnutrition, Shenaz and the rest of her family desperately need help. Without consistent food, without nutritious food, Shenaz could be permanently stunted for life. She’ll continue to get sick. She won’t grow to her full strength. And if she can’t go to school, she will someday — like her mother now — have little chance of finding a job.
The cycle of poverty will continue.
Today, and every day until she gets it, Shenaz needs help. You can see it in her eyes.